April 12, 2024

Press Freedom


Iran April 7, 2005

H.E. Hojatoleslam Muhammad Khatami
Office of the President
Palestine Avenue
Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: (011.98.21) 649-5880 or 646-6415

Your Excellency:

The Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) demands that the Iranian government re-open its investigation into the brutal murder of freelance photo-journalist, Zahra Kazemi, following the stunning disclosure that the physician who examined her said that she was tortured and raped during her detention in an Iranian jail.

Dr. Shahram Azam, who left Iran and was given landed immigrant status in Canada , told reporters at a March 31 news conference in Ottawa that he examined Ms. Kazemi four days after her arrest. She died on July 10, 2003, three weeks after she was arrested for taking pictures at a student protest in Tehran . The former Defense Ministry physician st ated that Kazemi showed clear signs of torture, including evidence of rape, a fractured skull, two broken fingers, and severe abdominal bruising. Dr. Azam was not allowed to examine Kazemi’s genitals because he is a male doctor; however, he said the female nurse who performed an exam told him that she saw severe damage.

Dr. Azam’s statements completely contradict the Iranian’s government’s July, 2004 version of the story. Iran ‘s judiciary said the head injuries that killed Kazemi were deemed “accidental.” An official statement said: “With the acquittal of the sole defendant, only one option is left: the death of the late Kazemi was an accident due to fall in blood pressure resulting from a hunger strike and her fall on the ground while standing.”

The inescapable conclusion must be that the Iranian government is now covering up the truth of the Kazemi case, in addition to torturing and murdering this female journalist. In fact, the BBC reported in February of this year that Kazemi died because she was denied proper medical attention after the initial beating. BBC Teheran correspondent, Jim Muir, reported that “hospital witnesses told (the BBC) that after Zahra’s admission, guards who had come with her prevented medical staff from treating her properly or carrying out the brain scans ordered several times by doctors until it was too late.”

The fact pattern in this case does no longer lines up with any of the previous versions put forth by the Iranian government. The OPC believes the time has come to conduct a serious and credible investigation into Kazemi’s murder.

In general, we remain puzzled by the paradoxical approach the Iranian government has taken to press freedom. The recent release of bloggers, Arash Sigarchi and Najmeh Oumidparvar, while welcome, cannot obscure the reality of Kazemi’s murder and apparent cover-up, as well as the 2004 imprisonment of 43 journalists. Your country ranks no. 1 in the Middle East for jailed journalists.

Reporters Without Borders urged the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on March 15 to adopt sanctions against Iran “without delay.” “After 19 years of successive condemnations, Iran has slipped through the commission’s net since 2001 on the grounds that the European Union is engaged in a dialogue with Tehran, but violations of free expression and the physical integrity of journalists have been continuing,” the press freedom organization said at the U.N. meeting in Geneva .

Clearly, the OPC believes the new revelations in the Kazemi case, Iran ‘s status as the Middle East’s leading jailer of journalists and the groundswell of criticism coming from press freedom advocates across the world all point toward the need for an overhaul of press policies in Iran .

We look forward to your response.


Respectfully yours,
Bill Collins
Larry Martz
Freedom of the Press Committee



cc:   Ali Hoseini-Khamenei, Ayatollah

Leader of the Islamic Revolution

Pastor Avenue


Islamic Republic of Iran

Fax: (011.98.21) 646-4373


Ambassador Mohammad Javad Zarif-Khonsari

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran

to the United Nations

622 Third Avenue , 34th Floor

New York , NY 10017

Fax: (212) 867-7086


Ali Jazini

c/o Interests Section

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

2209 Wisconsin Avenue, NW

Washington , DC 20007

Fax: (202) 965-1073


Editor, Pars Times



Political Editor, Tehran Times



Editor, Iran Focus